Not All Families Are From the Same Tree
Statistics show that second marriages have a 72% chance in ending in divorce which is significantly higher then first marriages. Why is this? Joining your life with another person is challenging enough, throw in some children an ex partner and multiple sets of in laws, you end up in a situation that can often feel impossible and leave you feeling like you have no control over many aspects of your life. There is almost no part of your life that is simple, which is why seeking support form a therapist who specializes in stepfamilies can and will help. You will learn to communicate around these very challenging topics and begin to work as a team with your partner instead of being angry that they put you in this impossible situation. You can not control what others do (i.e. an ex spouse), but you can control how you respond and react, but that requires coaching and practice. If you think you and your partner could benefit from stepfamily therapy, call me today or 206-747-0817 or click here to send in an online request.
Throughout the therapy process you will learn to:
- Learn effective communications patterns around parenting with your new partner.
- Build a relationship with your stepchildren. This will take time and a lot of patience from the stepparent. Depending on the age of the child it can take up to 4 years for a stepchild to begin to view you as more then a babysitter.
- Co-parent with ex-spouse. This is typically one of those things that can not be controlled. It can be managed and communicated more effectively.
- Parent your mutual child. How to include step children when a new baby is coming into the family. Explore fears around possible favoritism and/or different rules applying to your mutual child and your step child/bio child.
- Manage discussions around finances. Explore the frustrations that may occur when a significant portion of income is going to another household and how you are communicating around these issues.
- Understand the process that stepfamilies go through. It can take up to 7 years before a stepfamily gets into its grove. The problem is that many stepfamilies dissolve before hitting this mark. Recognizing that their will be huge peeks and valleys during this time can help when feeling hopeless during a valley.
- Set realistic expectations for your family. Stepfamilies rarely fall instantly in love with one another. Knowing that a stepparent is viewed as either a babysitter or coach can help spare your feelings when a stepchild thinks you are fabulous one day and doesn’t speak to you the next.
- Start new traditions and create shared meaning. There may be a need to keep some old traditions to help children with transitions. However as this stepfamily begins to take shape it is important that new new traditions are formed and this family creates their own shared meaning system.
- Grieve past losses, like previous relationships and/or the fact that your partner was married before and had his/her first child with someone other then you. I believe that stepparents are often grieving but don’t recognize what they are experiencing. The fairy tale doesn’t start or end with, and they lived happily ever after with children from a previous marriage, oh and by the way, you get the ex spouse as a bonus.
- Recognize that divorce is something that happens to children, they did NOT ask for this. While I always want to validate the experience that stepparents go through, I continually come back to the fact that the children are experiencing all this loss too but at a very different cognitive level. The changing of homes, the new familial system that they must navigate and the loss of their original family, all f this has significant effects on them. Learning how to hang in there, show empathy and understanding to the stepchildren will make the bond grow, even if it takes 7 years.